Everyone knows the importance of having a mobile responsive website now so that customers can book accommodation conveniently on-the-go, but as there are much greater benefits that can be derived from developing an app, hotels should also be considering that option carefully.
A well designed hotel app will, for example, allow customers to check themselves in and out of the hotel. The customer can arrive, check themselves in, and this will activate the door controls within the app. Then they just need to head directly to their room, and they can let themselves inside. Removing the need to interact with the hotel staff upon arrival might not sound like much, but it makes a big difference to Gen Y in particular, for whom self service has become the preferred way to operate at all times.
Once in the room, a mobile app can link in with any number of other hotel services, providing customers with a single hub that they can use at their convenience. The mobile app could include TV and movie ordering services within it, as well as the room service ordering menu, allowing a customer to settle themselves in and order their meal while watching a movie – with the added benefit of no risk that the person taking the room service order over the phone makes a mistake and gets the order wrong.
Really innovative hotels are tapping into the phone’s other features too to enhance the customer experience. For example, phones have geo-location functions which mean the hotel can tell, through the app, where the customer is at any point of time (with their permission, of course). This in turn means that a customer can quickly order a drink through their app, and the hotel staff will instantly know where to serve it to, be that the poolside, the lounge or the customer’s room.
Individually, each of these features seems small, but combined they create the impression of a hotel with a service fully personalised to each individual. A full six years ago we were already at the point where more people would rather lose their wallet than their phone, and that statistic has been growing since. The phone is an intensely personal bit of gear, and in interacting with the hotel through that phone, the customer is left with the impression that the hotel is engaging with them on their terms, which is a major boon to the perceived quality of service they are receiving.
But why does it have to be an app?
There is an ongoing debate about whether an app is really necessary, or whether you would be better off simply developing a mobile website. With the kind of rich multimedia that mobile websites can now display, it can seem like a lot of unnecessary work to develop a dedicated application.
While this might be true for some industry verticals, it is not the case at all when it comes to hotels. One of the most compelling reasons to develop an app is that it can take advantage of features on the phone that mobile websites cannot. Take, for example, the geo-location features mentioned above. If you want to be able to “follow” your customers movement around the hotel in order to provide them with that kind of personalised service, then the only way to go is through an app.
Similarly, using apps you can push out notifications to customers. Perhaps you want to offer customers a discount on room service or make an announcement of a big event going on somewhere in the building. Through an app, you can push out such notifications so that the customer is immediately made aware of them, offering them more opportunity to take advantage of promotional offers they may be interested in.
It’s also worth noting that there is a massive gap between the perception of trust that people have with apps when compared to mobile websites. Some 85% of mobile users would prefer using apps over mobile websites. While there’s an obvious need to make sure the app is trustworthy, functional and enjoyable to use, if you have a well-designed app, you can be sure to get the customer’s attention.
We will get to the point where mobile applications are no longer an option for hotels. The technology enables customers to enjoy a far more personalised and efficient experience of the hotel, and at the same time, the hotel can effectively use the app to drive additional sales of everything from entertainment to late night snacks.
About the author
Paul Lin is an entrepreneur and innovator who has been featured in technology media across Australia and the world. As the founder and CEO of Empirical Works, Australia’s leading enterprise mobile app consultancy, he helps companies to come up with long-term, sustainable enterprise mobility and mobile app solutions.